Global Health

Denise Johnson works two jobs, but neither of them offers health insurance to part-timers like her. She signed up for a marketplace plan this year, but for routine medical care Johnson still goes to the free clinic near her home in Charlottesville, Va.

The problem is her plan's deductible of at least $1,000. She can't recall the precise figure, but it doesn't really matter. "It's absolutely high," said Johnson, 58. "Who can afford that?" She struggles to pay her $28 monthly premium.

When it comes to getting old, some of us are a lot better at it than others. If I'm going to live to be 95 I would much prefer to be healthy, cogent and content. So I want to know the secrets of the healthy and very old.

Fortunately, scientists are starting to figure that out, "The good news is that there's a lot we can do about it," says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, a geriatrician and scientific director at the National Institute on Aging. He wants to see more and more people in that state of "aging grace."

The tiny Samoan islands have among the highest rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the world — and diet and weight-related health issues have been rising in these Pacific nations since the 1970s. Now 1 in 3 residents of American Samoa suffers from diabetes.

Residents of Flint, Mich., may tell you lead is a serious menace, but for most of the last 5,000 years, people saw lead as a miracle metal at the forefront of technology.

"You can think about lead as kind of the plastic of the ancient world," says Joseph Heppert, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He says it was because lead is easy to melt — a campfire alone can do it. Unlike iron, lead is malleable.

White House Says It Will Cut Ebola Funding To Address Zika

Apr 6, 2016

Top officials with the Obama administration said Wednesday that they'll redirect $589 million toward the Zika virus response. Most of that money was to be used to deal with Ebola virus.

Almost two months ago, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion from Congress to respond to the Zika threat.

"But Congress has yet to act," Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a news conference. "In the absence of congressional action, we must scale up Zika preparedness and response activities right now."

California's dental health system for the poor is dysfunctional, according to a report by a bipartisan oversight commission.

A more vivid description comes from Pedro Nava, the commission's chairman: "In California we have kids' teeth rotting out of their heads," he says. "That's utterly inexcusable."

For Erin Moore, keeping her son's cystic fibrosis in check requires careful monitoring to prevent the thick, sticky mucous his body produces from further damaging his lungs and digestive system.

Moore keeps tabs on 6-year-old Drew's weight, appetite, exercise and stools every day to see if they stray from his healthy baseline. When he develops a cough, she tracks that, too.

Talking about money is never easy. But when doctors are reluctant to talk about medical costs, patients' health can be undermined.

A study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs explores the opportunities that are often missed in the exam room.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on March 28 and has been updated to reflect the announcement from the World Health Organization terminating the "Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa." WHO notes that "all three countries have now completed the 42 day observation period and additional 90 day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negativ

Funny how feelings about sleep change over the years. Many children fight bedtime and are still getting up once or more during the night well into childhood. Meantime, adults often feel they can never get enough sleep and, if they're anything like me, have vivid fantasies about napping.

Now a study suggests that parents' own sleep quality may bias how they perceive their child's sleep issues.

Experiencing the world as a different gender than the one assigned to you at birth can take a toll. Nearly all research into transgender individuals' mental health shows poorer outcomes. A study looking specifically at transgender women, predominantly women of color, only further confirms that reality.

As scientists struggle to understand the threat posed by Zika virus, there's another viral infection that's a known danger in pregnancy and that harms 100,000 babies a year, even though it has been preventable with a vaccine since 1969.

The disease is rubella, or German measles. Like Zika, the rubella virus often causes either a mild rash or no symptoms at all.

You've probably heard that a little booze a day is good for you. I've even said it at parties. "Look at the French," I've said gleefully over my own cup. "Wine all the time and they still live to be not a day younger than 82."

I'm sorry to say we're probably wrong. The evidence that alcohol has any benefit on longevity or heart health is thin, says Dr. Timothy Naimi, a physician and epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center.

It was 11 on a Tuesday night nearly six years ago when Jean-Clair Desir's mother fell ill with cholera in the Boucan-Carre district of Haiti's central highlands.

"She started vomiting with diarrhea," Desir recalls. "I made oral rehydration for her, nothing worked. She died at 3 in the morning." She never made it to a hospital or clinic and so probably wasn't counted as a cholera victim.

After burying his mother, Desir, a third-year student at Haiti's University of Agronomy Sciences, nearly died of cholera himself.

When Allison Fite was 16, she couldn't stop falling asleep in class. Doctors told her it was from a severe sinus infection, but it never really went away. For the next decade she struggled with infection after infection, taking antibiotics and decongestants. "Having these sinus problems and not being able to breathe was debilitating," she says.

Fite, now 27, couldn't figure out why this kept happening. Neither could any of her doctors. They told her she had allergies, but "then the tests would come back and they'd be like, 'Huh. You don't have allergies,' " she says.

Nicola Lindson-Hawley remembers how hard it was for her mom to stop smoking.

"One of the reasons I find this topic very interesting and why I went into it was because my mom was a smoker when I was younger," says Lindson-Hawley, who studies tobacco and health at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford.

If the high-pitched whir of a dentist's drill as it bores into your molar terrifies you, good news! There could be fewer fillings in your future. A painless way to prevent cavities in adults is gaining traction.

Some doctors and a key group of preventive care experts aren't seeing eye to eye on seniors' need for vision screening during primary care visits.

When it's time for medical care, where do you go? The doctor's office? An urgent care clinic? Or the nearest hospital?

As many as 1 in 3 Americans sought care in an ER in the past two years, according to a recent poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. That relatively high frequency may be a matter of convenience, even though many in the poll also report frustration with the cost and quality of care they received in an ER.

Eric O'Grey knew he was in trouble. His weight had ballooned to 320 pounds, and he was spending more than $1,000 a month on medications for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

In 2010, a physician told him to buy a funeral plot, because he would need it in five years. He was 51 years old.

An investigation into a clinical test in France that left one person dead and put five in the hospital has found evidence of brain damage in people who took high doses of the experimental pain medicine.

The early-stage clinical study, conducted by Biotrial in France, was halted in January when the side effects surfaced. It was the first time the drug, made by the Portuguese company Bial and known as "BIA 10-2474," was tested in humans.

Teenagers often are not comfortable talking about their sex lives with a doctor, but Asian-American teens might have an especially tough time, a study finds.

They are particularly uncomfortable talking with Asian-American or Asian health care providers and say they would lie to them about sex because they think the provider would breach confidentiality and tell their parents.

"If my mom was even outside this door right now, I would not be saying anything about my sexual activities," an 18-year-old woman told the researchers. "I would just be lying."

Carla used to get dialysis a couple of times a week at the public hospital in Indianapolis, Eskenazi Hospital. She would sit in a chair for hours as a machine took blood out of her arm, cleaned it and pumped it back into her body.

Then one day in 2014, she was turned away.

Even though her lungs were full of fluid, the doctors said her condition wasn't urgent enough to treat that day, she says. "I explained to the doctors that I couldn't breathe," she recalls, "and they told me it wasn't true, that I had to wait three more days."

As people get older, their health care goals may shift from living as long as possible to maintaining a good quality of life: quality over quantity.

In many cases, the medical treatment older people receive often doesn't reflect this change in priorities.

Though the majority of Americans have a primary care doctor, a large number also seek treatment at urgent care centers, statistics show. For many people, the centers have become a bridge between the primary care doctor's office and the hospital emergency room.

Slice The Price Of Fruits And Veggies, Save 200,000 Lives?

Mar 2, 2016

Lowering the price of fruits and vegetables by 30 percent can save nearly 200,000 lives over 15 years — roughly the population of Des Moines, Iowa. That's the message being touted by researchers this week at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology meeting in Phoenix.

I'm a retinal specialist, an ophthalmologist who specializes in the back of the eye. I see a good number of patients with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, a disease that limits central vision. It affects at least 6 percent of the population, and the more severe form with significant vision loss will affect about 3 million people by the year 2020.

A bright red tablecloth adds a pop of color to Ashara Manns' kitchen at her home in Flint, Mich.

The substitute teacher is at the stove, where she pours two bottles of water into a stockpot before dumping in big bags of mixed greens.

"Normally, I would rinse these with the running water, so hopefully they're still safe," Manns says.

Flint residents have been told not to drink or cook with the city's lead-tainted tap water, so Manns and her husband, Bennie, rely on bottled water to prepare their meals.

Researchers are working furiously to determine if the Zika virus now spreading in Latin America is responsible for a spike in cases in Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that can cause temporary paralysis.

Every morning since I arrived in Brazil to cover the Zika outbreak, the first thing I do is douse myself with insect repellent before venturing outside.

I know the chances I'll catch Zika are pretty low, and the disease tends to be relatively mild for most healthy adult males. But with all the alarm about the virus, it's hard not to start to get a little paranoid about catching Zika from a mosquito.

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